The European Commission on Tuesday put forward proposals to speed up the return of unauthorised migrants and close loopholes under which requests for asylum can be made in more than one country.
This comes weeks after EU leaders agreed to fortify their borders, after complaints from countries including Austria.
Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said the EU's 27 countries must recognise each other's decisions to deport migrants who enter without authorisation and not permit unsuccessful applicants to then seek asylum in another EU country.
She said that currently, barely one in five migrants who are not eligible to stay are actually sent home.
“Today, there is a possibility for a person that has had an asylum application assessed, a negative decision, a return decision [issued] in one member state, to just abscond and turn up in another member state and start the process again,” she said in Strasburg.
“This is, of course, a real abuse of the system. We should close these loopholes.”
Ms Johansson said a new Schengen information system came into force last week that will enable member states to insert an alert on a person with a return decision, plus personal information, including fingerprints.
EU countries like Belgium say they are overwhelmed with inter-European migration. Government shelters for asylum seekers are full, forcing hundreds to sleep in the streets of the capital Brussels, which also houses the EU headquarters.
The commission said detention is an option for those given a return decision, but only as a last resort to prevent the risk of absconding.
Other possible measures include the obligation to surrender identity documents and regularly reporting to local authorities.
The commission also recommended that EU countries increase communications with third countries of origin to accelerate returns in cases where asylum is denied.
Ms Johansson highlighted the “good political agreement” between the EU and Bangladesh on returns.
“Tomorrow, there will be a Frontex flight for Bangladesh including nine member states and 68 returnees,” she said. “This is the way we should work together with joint flights and joint co-operation.”
Frontex is the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, responsible for co-ordinating with the border and coast guards of member states.
Countries should make more use of Frontex services, Ms Johnasson said. She said only two member states — which she declined to name — were responsible for 90 per cent of returns carried out by the agency.
At 21 per cent, the rate of return for migrants ineligible to stay is low, said Ms Johansson. This low figure “hampers our system and erode trust”, she said.
While seeking to remove more migrants who enter the EU without authorisation, Ms Johansson said efforts should also be made to encourage legal migration.
“We insist on preventing illegal arrivals and stepping up returns so that we can instead invest on legal pathways,” said Ms Johansson.
“We need migration in the EU, we are lacking labour forces in many areas”.
EU countries have also said they are considering increasing trade tariffs and restricting visa applications for countries that refuse to take back migrants.
The bloc's migration policies have come under intense scrutiny after 74 migrants died in the Mediterranean last month when their overcrowded boat smashed into rocky reefs off the coast of Calabria, in Italy.
Then on Sunday, a migrant boat sank off Libya, with at least 30 people missing and presumed dead.
Questioned about the Calabria incident, Ms Johansson said that a commercial vessel had tried to protect the overcrowded boat from waves but was unable to because it took too long for a search-and-rescue team to arrive.
Asked how Tuesday's proposals could avoid such tragedies in the future, Ms Johansson said: “I would lie if I said that it would solve everything when it comes to saving lives in the Mediterranean.”
She added that the commission has activated a co-ordination group for search and rescue operations.